It would be hard to argue who was the most valuable player in the final day of Williamsport's annual softball tournament.
Alexis Bower pitched 14 scoreless innings, homered in the championship contest against Daniel Boone and finished with 26 strikeouts as Williamsport captured the championship with a 6-0, semifinal win over Towanda and later won the title with a 7-0 victory over Daniel Boone.
Bower was sensational throughout the tournament, pitching in 17 of 19 innings without giving up a run and giving up a combined five hits and finishing with 34 strikeouts.
And what made her performance over the final day of the tournament so impressive was the way Bower adapted to each situation.
In the semifinal against Towanda, Bower struggled with control, going to five or more pitches against 10 of the 22 batters she faced.
Even with the high pitch count, Bower was able to get 12 strikeouts, relying on her defense to do the rest. Brooke Pompeo was especially tough at third, stopping two hard ground balls for outs and snagging a pop-up in the sixth for the second out.
"Brooke is a great third baseman, I couldn't ask for anyone better," Alexis Bower said. "She stops every ball she can."
The championship game played out in a much different fashion with Bower retiring 14 of the 26 batters with strikeouts, only passing the five-pitch mark to a batter five times. Williamsport's ace tossed first pitch strikes to 18 batters, needing only 92 pitches to end the game, compared to the 109 she needed in the semifinals.
The hardest hit ball the Millionaires saw throughout the day came when Corrine Wickwire lined a ball into right field. Wickwire was the lone Towanda player to reach second. Bower stranded the others at first with strikeouts to end the second, fourth and sixth innings.
"Good pitchers are going to get hit, but good defenses will be able to come up with the play," Williamsport head coach Quint Bower said. "I don't expect us to go out and score 15 runs a game, but if we can go out and play defense and pitch this well we're going to win a lot of games."
And with their ace holding the opposition scoreless, the Millionaires' offense provided plenty of run support, driving in six runs in the final two innings of the semifinal contest.
"We felt pretty confident with our defense, especially with Alexis throwing so well on the mound," Pompeo said. "We just had to break it open, then I knew we could get it going around and score more runs."
Pompeo had two singles through the final two innings, scoring on both occasions and driving in Heather Inners with her hit in the sixth. Dru Heller also added two more runs with a single, scoring Bower, who drove in a run two batters prior.
"Our hitting was on this weekend, and getting 15 runs last night was big because pitching all weekend is tough. It's the toughest thing I have to do all weekend," Alexis Bower said of Williamsport's 15-5 win over Penns Valley on Friday nigh to open the tournament. "It was big to get that rest, especially for today, because we were playing good teams."
The extra rest was especially crucial for Bower, who pitched 14 of her 17 innings Saturday. It took Williamsport's ace 202 pitches to get through the day, with a showdown against Jersey Shore still looming Monday. But it appeared Bower got stronger as she went on, zoning in to get eight strikeouts over the last four innings of the championship contest.
"Friday's game set the tempo for the whole weekend," Quint Bower said.
In the contest, Alexis Bower held a perfect game through three innings, but, thinking for the long term of the tournament, Quint Bower pulled her to rest. And the decision appeared to pay off.
"Alexis threw 17 innings of shutout ball and when you can do that, you're going to win a lot of games," Quint Bower said.
Williamsport's offense opened much stronger to begin the championship contest against Daniel Boone, scoring five runs in the first two innings.
"Our offense just keeps building up each game we go and it's just making it so much better," Pompeo said.
"It gives me so much confidence to go out with runs on, I can play around with pitches more instead of feeling like I have to strike everyone out," Alexis Bower said. "Our defense is awesome and I really have a lot of confidence in them."
Pompeo opened the game with a triple and Heller added her second two-run single of the tournament to complete a four-run first. Pompeo then scored in the second with her second lead-off hit, an infield single she was able to beat out by a step.
Williamsport's speedy third baseman finished her day reaching on five of her eight at-bats, scoring four runs and driving in another.
"In the beginning of the season I was in a slump and getting pretty down about it, but coach talked to me and told me not to think about it so much. It seems like it's working," Pompeo said. "It feels really good to start hitting."
And Pompeo wasn't the only one. Alexis Bower went 3-for-4 in the championship game, connecting for a two-run homer in the fourth to cushion her lead. Dominique Thomas, playing on an injured foot also helped out the offense with an RBI single.
Thomas, who was a game time decision due to plantar fasciitis in her foot, was barely able to walk before the game and required clearance from the trainer before taking the field. Thomas tolerated the pain, playing in center field and posting three combined hits in two games.
"It was a call to the trainer today just to see if she could play," Quint Bower said. "She's just gutting it out, she could hardly walk before the game. As long as she can tolerate the pain she can play."
Williamsport 6, Towanda 0
Towanda000 000 0-0 2 1
Williamsport000 024 X-6 9 0
Tory Welliver, Alaina Wickwire (6) and Emily Gorman. Alexis Bower and Heather Inners. WP-Bower. LP-Welliver.
Top Towanda hitters: Corrine Wickwire 1-2, 2B. Top Williamsport hitters: Brooke Pompeo 3-4, 2 runs, RBI; Dominique Thomas 2-4, RBI.
Records: Towanda 8-3.
Williamsport 7, Daniel Boone 0
Williamsport410 200 0-7 11 0
Daniel Boone000 000 0-0 3 3
Alexis Bower and Heather Inners. Jess Martz, Bekah Slattery (4) and Taylor Ciatto. WP-Bower. LP-Martz.
Top Williamsport hitters: Brooke Pompeo 2-4, 3B, 2 runs; Bower 3-4, HR (1-on, 4th).
Records: Williamsport 11-0. Daniel Boone 13-4.
Next: Williamsport at Jersey Shore, Monday, 4:30